Fluoride Action Network

Anger as MPs say no to Southampton fluoridated water review

Source: Daily Echo | June 25th, 2009 | By Jon Reeve
Location: United Kingdom, England

IT was a plea from 15,000 residents – but one that looks set to be ignored.

Campaigners opposing a bid to fluoridate water supplies in Hampshire had called on the Government to re-examine the plans.

But in what has been branded a “kick in the teeth”, ministers have knocked back calls to look again at the scheme to add fluoride to the water supplies of nearly 200,000 homes in and around Southampton.

It comes just a month after campaigners delivered a 15,300-name petition to the Prime Minister calling on him to intervene and take action.

Announcing the decision in the Commons, Ann Keen, the parliamentary under-secretary of state for health services, said the Government is firmly in favour of fluoridation “because of the potential it offers for reducing inequalities in oral health”.

It comes despite Gordon Brown telling the Daily Echo earlier this year the decision should be “up to local people”.

And this month, Southampton’s two Labour MPs said they believe the scheme must be put on hold because of public opposition.

Mrs Keen said the law stated the Stragic Health Authority (SHA) did not have to listen to public views opposing it, if it was happy the scientific evidence proves fluoride would improve dental health.

She also said it “would not be appropriate” to call in the SHA’s decision for examination, because of a legal bid that has also been launched against it that could yet see a judicial review into the process.

As revealed in the Daily Echo, the Royal Courts of Justice is considering an application from a Southampton woman to scrutinise the SHA board’s unanimous decision to give fluoridation the green light.

Chairman of Hampshire Against Fluoridation John Spottiswoode said he thought the legal challenge was an excuse for the Government to hide behind.

“They don’t need to wait for the judicial review – they could just tell the SHA not to contest it, and save all the time and money involved,” he said.

“They are just refusing to listen to the people.

“It’s a kick in the teeth for those people who have clearly said they don’t want it, and I think they will feel angry they are being ignored.”

The SHA, which has set aside £400,000 to fight the legal challenge, has repeatedly insisted it met all legal criteria during its public consultation last year.

During the consultation, of the 10,000 responses received 72 per cent of those from residents in the affected area – covering parts of Southampton, Eastleigh, Totton, Netley and Rownhams – were opposed to fluoridation.

New Forest East MP Julian Lewis, who has already lodged a complaint with the health service ombudsman because he believes the SHA was biased, said he was disgusted with Mrs Keen’s comments in response to questions he tabled.